2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Few cars have reached “icon” status the way that Chevrolet’s Corvette has. Also, few two-door sports cars come in as many flavors.
There’s the base, the Z06, the top-line ZR1, and then there is the Grand Sport. A bit of a cross between the Z06 and the base, the Grand Sport has the wider wheels and fenders of the Z06, along with beefed-up brakes and a more-premium suspension. It also has a dry-sump engine (manual-transmission versions) to go along with a bunch of smaller changes.
Powered by a 436-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8 and available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, the Grand Sport makes for a nice step in-between the Z06 and the base car. My manual-transmission Grand Sport tester was a 4LT version, meaning it was loaded with options.
The 4LT Premium Equipment Group cost $7,705 and included a leather interior, a premium Bose sound system, a head-up display, a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heated seats, a wireless cell phone link, a luggage shade, cargo net, and sport-bucket seats among other goodies. The Grand Sport Heritage Package added logos to the headrests, two-tone leather seats, and fender stripes for $1,195. Chrome aluminum wheels checked in at $1,995, and a navigation system with auxiliary and USB input ports came in at $1,795.
We’re not done with options. The dual-mode exhaust cost $1,195, and metal pedal covers ran $295. That’s $14,180 just in options--more than a Chevy Aveo’s worth. With the $950 destination fee, the total hit $69,920. The car based for $54,790.
That’s a lot of money, but oh, is it worth it. Drop your right foot, and the ‘Vette takes off with authority, reaching license-revoking velocities in a hurry. Of course, this surprises no one--we all know how fast a Corvette can get out of its own way. The pure joy of intended acceleration is great--but the aural euphoria coming from the tailpipes is even greater.
When trundling around town, the big V-8 bumps along in relative quiet--I think the last 2011 Ford Mustang GT I tested was louder at low RPM. Keep it below 3,500 RPM or so and the Corvette is relatively civilized. There’s still enough low-end torque to rearrange your lower intestines, but the concert hasn’t yet started.
Kick it up above 3,500, though, and the gates of hell--or heaven, depending on your perspective--come open as the V-8 comes alive, thanks to the dual-mode exhaust. Every primal old-school gearhead instinct is satisfied, and all seems right with the automotive world. You WILL find yourself revving the engine in neutral at red lights, just to hear it in full. Have an ex-lover you’d like to annoy? Drive by their house late at night and let ‘er rip. You may set off a car alarm or two, and I guarantee he or she won’t be able to stay asleep for long.
Perhaps the exhaust plays best in urban settings. I opened it up on Chicago’s famed Lower Wacker Drive when traffic was non-existent, and my passenger remarked that I’d just alerted every cop within three miles to our presence, thanks to the reverberation of the exhaust off of the concrete tunnel.
Of course, you might be too busy hanging on to really notice the sound--did I mention the ‘Vette is fast? Acceleration is brutally strong, so strong that you have to think ahead to upshift, lest you run into the rev limiter.
The Grand Sport isn’t just a straight-line champ. While there are better-handling premium sports cars out there, the Corvette is a lot less scarier than previous-generation models. The standard traction control system harnesses all that power and helps keep the car between the lines, while the steering offers nice progressive feel--it’s light at low speeds, and firms up a bit when needed.
For the weekend warriors, the traction control does offer a Competition Mode, in which the system waits longer before intervening. Your humble author noticed the difference on a lonely, curvy back road after an ill-timed downshift--the back end stepped out for a second, but before I could even process this and begin corrective action, the computer had already stepped in, leaving only a chirp of the tires as evidence of its intervention. Needless to say, perhaps only the most skilled drivers should shut the system down completely.
When pushed, the car felt a little too wide and large for public roads--in general, it felt confined during aggressive maneuvers. This is a car that belongs on the track. When the fun’s over, the big brakes bring the Corvette to a halt in superbly quick fashion.